Lawmakers were asked to submit funding priorities by last Friday for one-time expenditures that adhere to Governor Brown’s investment criteria for funds flowing to states from the American Rescue Plan.
- The 2021 Oregon legislature hits its half-way mark this week, as a due-or-die deadline for legislation approaches on April 13 when bills must move out of their house of origin or languish for the session.
- Bills on the House and Senate floors continue to be read in full by computer-generated voices because Republican lawmakers refuse to waive the readings as required by the Oregon Constitution. A possible break in the deliberate slowdown came last week when Republican leaders agreed to waive full readings for budget bills. Democrats had pressed for waivers on bills with bipartisan support in committees.
- After several days when legislative floor sessions were canceled because of positive COVID-19 tests, lawmakers will have a chance this week to get vaccinated at a mobile clinic at the Capitol.
- Andrea Valderrama was sworn in last week to represent House District 47 in Portland, replacing Diego Hernandez who resigned in the face of an expulsion vote over allegations of sexual harassment. Valderrama’s seating marked the first time in Oregon history that women outnumber men in the Oregon House, 31 to 29.
- Lawmakers were asked to submit funding priorities by last Friday for one-time expenditures that adhere to Governor Brown’s investment criteria for funds flowing to states from the American Rescue Plan. The criteria refer to investments in resiliency, childcare, housing support and redress for impacts felt disproportionately by women and BIPOC communities. Legislative budget writers previously said higher-then-anticipated state tax revenues plus additional federal funds would make significant budget cuts unnecessary.
- Job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic have hit lower-wage workers more heavily than in previous recessions, which impacted middle-wage workers more, according to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. “Our office has been posting employment by wage tier based on industry average wages every month since COVID hit. However, that’s really just been a placeholder because we lack solid monthly estimates for occupational data at the state level. It’s an important distinction because if the manager and accountant at a restaurant stayed employed and it was the chefs and waitresses who were laid off, industry employment masks those changes among high- and low-wage jobs even within hard-hit sectors.” State economists project that higher incomes for most households will turn into pent-up demand and a faster-than-feared economic recovery. “This means there is likely to be relatively little economic scarring and permanent damage,” they said.
- The Joint Committee on Transportation approved Senate Bill 574 that allows motorcycle lane-splitting except in highway work zones. Motorcyclists say lane-splitting can prevent rear-end accidents, avoid engine overheating and reduce rider fatigue. Truckers view lane-splitting as dangerous and a liability on two wheels. The committee also held an informational hearing on renewable diesel, a drop-in substitute for petroleum diesel that costs about the same, but releases far less greenhouse gas. BP described how it refines renewable feedstocks from beef tallow and soybean oil and bring it to Oregon via pipeline as part of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program.
- The Senate voted 27-1 to make the display of a noose in a public space a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and $6,250 fine. “It is time to discourage and dismantle the racist dog whistles that are still out there,” said Portland Democratic Senator Lew Frederick. Senate Bill 398 now goes to the House.
- The House approved legislation to convert hotels and motels into housing for homeless wildfire victims. House 3261, sponsored by Rep. Pam Marsh of Ashland, smooths the path to overcome zoning restrictions within urban growth boundaries to allow the conversion of motel and hotel rooms into emergency long-term housing. “This allows us to repurpose hotels and motels that have housed tourists to house the most vulnerable,” Marsh said. HB 3261 now goes to the Senate.
- Environmental activists expressed frustration that bills to phase out single-use plastic and polystyrene foam for food use statewide after the Ocean Conservancy released a report highlighting a sharp increase in protected face masks discovered in coastal beach trash.
- The Washington House Transportation Committee said last week it could allocate more than $1 billion to replace the I-5 Columbia River Bridge. However, the news got a cool reception by Oregon lawmakers who lead transportation committees, who said they are awaiting an updated cost estimate for the bridge that could run up to $4.5 billion. Then there is the American Jobs Plan introduced last week that calls for $115 billion for road and bridge investments.